Introversion and Shakespeare

Today I read an article spouting 10 myths about introverts. Having always considered myself an introvert, I decided to see what other people thought of persons like myself. What I walked away from the article with, though, was not a better understanding of extroverts, but a better understanding of myself.

My definition of introvert has never expanded beyond, “I’d rather be by myself, thanks. No, I wouldn’t like to have a meaningless conversation.” The article explained parts of my personality that I didn’t know how to explain more than, “Eh, it’s just how I am.”

What’s interesting to me, though, is not that I now understand why I don’t like to talk in a large group (but will chatter all day with my close friends), was that the understanding of the differences between introverts and extroverts has been understood far longer than my country has been in existence.  Shakespeare is often credited with having amazing insight into human nature, and once again he has shown this to be true.  In Hamlet Shakespeare wrote the following:

“Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice” (I.iii.68).

Shakespeare recognized that people are inherently different and that moderation is required in order for social peace. Polonius speaks these words to his son knowing that Laertes is an extrovert and that he must learn moderation from the wisdom of an introvert.

It’s not that extroverts or introverts are any better than the other one, because they’re not.  It takes both types of people to make society function as it should. It takes people who are willing to talk to everyone and bring people together and be completely comfortable with strangers, but it also takes people who can quietly observe and make sure the less exciting details are taken care of.

Extroverts, take note from your introvert friends: Try listening to groups of people talking without joining in, and see what you might learn from and about them.  Be amazed at how much you can help someone simply by listening to them without ever giving your advice or opinion.


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